What's a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mysteries, Book 1)

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9780451220905: What's a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mysteries, Book 1)

M.J., her partner Gilley, and their client, the wealthy, de-lish Dr. Steven Sable, are at his family's lodge, where his grandfather allegedly jumped to his death from the roof-although Sable says it was foul play. But the patriarch's isn't the only ghost around. The place is lousy with souls, all with something to get off their ghoulish chests. Now M.J. will have to to quell the clamor-and listen for a voice with the answers...

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About the Author:

Real-life professional psychic Victoria Laurie drew from her career as a gifted clairvoyant and police psychic to create the character of Abigail Cooper. She lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with her two spoiled dachshunds, Lilly and Toby. For information about upcoming novels and appointments for readings, visit her Web site at www.VictoriaLaurie.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

 

Praise for the Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye mysteries

“Victoria Laurie has crafted a fantastic tale in this latest Psychic Eye Mystery. There are few things in life that upset Abby Cooper, but ghosts and her parents feature high on her list ... giving the reader a few real frights and a lot of laughs.”—Fresh Fiction

 

“Fabulous.... Fans will highly praise this fine ghostly murder mystery.”—The Best Reviews

 

“A great new series . . . plenty of action.”

Midwest Book Review

 

“An invigorating entry into the cozy mystery realm. . . . I cannot wait for the next book.”—Roundtable Reviews

 

“The characters are all realistically drawn and the situations go from interesting, to amusing, to laugh-out-loud funny. The best thing a person can do to while away the cold winter is to cuddle up in front of a fire with this wonderful book.”—The Best Reviews

 

“A fun, light read, and a promising beginning to an original series.”—The Romance Reader’s Connection

 

“A fresh, exciting addition to the amateur sleuth genre.”

—J. A. Konrath, author of Rusty Nail

 

“Worth reading over and over again.”—Bookviews

SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, April 2007

Copyright © Victoria Laurie, 2007

All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

eISBN : 978-1-101-00764-8

This book is lovingly dedicated to two
women of profound beauty and intellect:

 

Adell Chase, my southern bell of truth
and the wisest woman on earth;
and
Karen Ditmars, a bella in her own right
and the coolest woman on the planet.

Acknowledgments

Here’s a news flash—writers are selfish people. Truth is, creative types like me are driven by one impulse—to make up a world in which we get to control everything and everyone. We decide who enters and who exits, what the weather will be, who will hook up with whom, who will win and who will lose. It makes us feel powerful and, in all honesty, has relatively little to do with thinking about what will make anyone else happy.

Which is why, at the end of pounding out three-hundred-plus pages, we are often surprised by how many of our friends, colleagues, fans, and family have generously helped us perfect our creations. And I suppose that’s what tempers us a bit, to know that while we may love to play God, we still need some angels to help us get it right. It’s these angels that I’d like to humbly thank right now:

First and foremost, my incredible editor, Molly Boyle, who takes my overly wordy, addicted-to-adjectives manuscripts and turns them into what I meant to write. Molly, you’re so good at what you do that you have not just impressed me—you’ve blown me away. I’m unbelievably grateful for all your patience (didn’t know you’d need so much of that with me, did you?), your hard work, and your fantastic instincts. You and I shall make one helluva team, girlfriend—thank you, thank you, thank you!

Next, my astounding and amazing agent, Jim McCarthy. What can I say that I haven’t said before? (No, seriously, help me out here, cuz every time I mention you, I gush and gush and I’m runnin’ out of gushy things to say!) LOL . . . Truly, Jim, I think you must be some sort of cosmic gift from the Big Guy upstairs who either took great pity on me or got me mixed up with some other far more deserving schmuck when he sent you my way. And just to be clear . . . if there was a screwup? I’m not giving you back . . . ever! So plan on stickin’ around, sugar; we gots a looooong way to go just yet.

Adell Chase and Karen Ditmars, to whom this book is dedicated: Ladies, I’ve been so lucky in my life. Everywhere I go, I meet the best of humanity, and a few of them, like you, I am blessed to call friends. You two leave me breathless with your wisdom, your courage, and your will to be strong, independent, smart, and capable women. When I grow up, I swear I want to be just like you two!

My sister Sandy Upham and my brother and sister-in-law Jon and Naoko Upham—you guys have no idea how much I love you and how very much your support means to me. I’m so proud of you three fantastic human beings that I’m lucky enough to be related to. Huge hugs and kisses comin’ your way!

Also, a relative newcomer to my troupe of favorite people on earth, Michael Torres, aka The Boy. Thank you so much for the incredible way you inspire me, cheer me on, and never have an unkind word. You’re such a beautiful man, M.T., both inside and out, and I’m beyond thrilled that you’ve come into my life. That morning phone call to cheer me on when I’m in my writing slump is such a gift; please know that I appreciate and adore you for that and so much more.

Dr. Stephen Pap, who gave me the inspiration for Dr. Delicious, thank you first and foremost for fixing my hand— which is all healed now, thank God—and also for being so generous with your boyhood stories and background. I told you that you’d make a great character—I wasn’t wrong.

And last but certainly not least, please let me thank all my incredible friends who have never wavered in their support, love, and encouragement: Kristy Schiller, Nora Brosseau, Silas Hudson, Laurie Comnes, Pipa Terry, Betty Stocking, Jaa Nawtaisong, and Leanne Tierney. You guys rock, and I’m so grateful. ☺

Chapter 1

“Good morning, Miss Holliday,” the real estate agent cheerfully greeted me outside 84 Dartmouth Street.

“Hi, there. You must be Cassandra,” I said, shaking her hand. “Please call me M.J.”

“You’re younger and prettier than I thought you’d be,” she commented as she nervously twisted the pearls at her neck.

“Thank you,” I said, then quickly got down to business. “I know we talked a little on the phone, but what can you tell me about this house?”

Cassandra paled slightly and looked up at the three-story brownstone, a turn-of-the-century gem that was right at home in Boston’s opulent Back Bay neighborhood. “I’ve had the listing for almost a year, which, as you can imagine, is unheard-of here in the Back Bay. Brownstones like this one sell around here in a matter of weeks, not months.”

“Sticker shock?” I asked.

“No, nothing like that. At one million it’s an absolute steal! And we’ve had a lot of interest in it, despite its history. But every time we get close to making a deal, the buyer backs out. They all say the same thing: The place just has bad energy.”

“You said someone was killed inside?”

Cassandra nodded. “Yes, the daughter of the current owners was raped and murdered a little over a year ago.”

“That’s awful,” I said, looking back toward the brownstone. “Did they catch the killer?”

“He was shot by police as he tried to make a getaway out the back. Unfortunately, they arrived too late to save the girl.”

“So, really, two people died in the house.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” she said.

“And what’s been happening since then?”

“Well,” she said, her hand going back to twist the pearls, “every time I show the house I get the feeling I’m being watched. And more than that, sometimes I feel like I’m being followed. People come in and don’t seem to want to stay. Most folks just take a tour of one or two rooms; then they leave like they’re being chased out.”

“I see,” I said, but I had a feeling there was more. “Is that all?”

“No,” she said after a moment. “The other day I was showing the house to this couple who really seemed to be okay with the history of the place. They considered it a good trade-off for such a bargain. But just as we were getting ready to leave, we all heard a woman’s scream from one of the bedrooms upstairs. I thought someone had come in while I was showing the couple around, so I ran up there and looked all over but no one was there. Then, just as I was coming back downstairs, I felt . . .” She paused.

“What?”

“I felt someone touch me.”

“Like a hand on your shoulder or something?”

“No,” she whispered, her eyes large and frightened. “Like someone touched me inappropriately.”

“Ah,” I said with a nod. Now I knew who the aggressor was. “Okay, if you’ll unlock the door I’ll get to work.”

“Can you really help us, M.J.?”

“That’s what I do, Cassandra,” I said. “I’m a ghostbuster. Give me a few hours and let me see what I can do.”

Cassandra followed me up the six steps to the front door and unlocked it for me. “You’ll be all right in there by yourself?” she asked, her face suddenly worried.

“I’ll be fine,” I said confidently. I’d faced scarier stuff than this before. Pausing as the door swung shut behind me, I moved into the foyer and, looked around, setting my duffel bag down in the corner by the staircase. I wanted to get the lay of things before reaching into my bag of tricks.

I let my eyes travel around the room, getting a feel for the brownstone’s configuration. The front foyer had several doorways leading to the rest of the house. To my right a corridor led to the kitchen. The living room was directly in front of me, and off to my left was what looked like a study. From my back pocket I pulled out my electrostatic meter, a small gadget that measures variances in electrostatic energy. I held my arm out and waved it in a circle around the foyer, noting the thick, luxurious carpet, high ceilings, crown molding, and expensive wall covering. The digs were definitely opulent, and even without furniture you could tell this place oozed money. And, according to my electrostatic meter, the place oozed something else, too.

With an eye on the needle bouncing back and forth across the gauge, I moved ahead through the foyer and into the living room. The needle gave a jolt as I edged over to the French doors that swung out onto the terrace. The needle bounced again. I put the little gadget in the back pocket of my jeans and closed my eyes for a moment and got myself centered.

Before I was a ghostbuster, I was a professional medium, which has proven to be the most beneficial skill for my success rate as a top-notch buster. In other words, I can sense energies that both have crossed over to the other side successfully, and those that have become stuck, or “grounded,” as we like to call it. In 84 Dartmouth I had immediately picked up the energies of two grounded spirits, one female and one male. I decided to focus on the female first.

Moving away from the French doors, I followed the small tug in my solar plexus, heading through the hallway and up the stairs. As I closed in on the female energy, something slightly disturbing happened. I felt the male energy, which was thick with ill will, begin to follow me. “Back off a little, pal,” I said quietly to him. “I’ll deal with you in a moment.”

The male energy didn’t want to listen, but continued to shadow me up to the second floor, where I paused on the landing before continuing up to the third floor. There, at the end of the hallway, I saw a dark shadow dart into one of the bedrooms. “It’s okay,” I said to the shadow. “I’m not going to hurt you.” I walked down the hall and into the bedroom, and noticed an immediate dip in temperature. I crossed my arms and shivered slightly, feeling the icy coolness penetrate my clothing and my skin, seeping into my bones. I’d never gotten used to the deep chill that comes with rubbing up against spectral activity, but I pushed my discomfort aside and focused hard on the task at hand. “What’s your name, sweetheart?” I asked the empty bedroom softly.

There was no response, but I could feel the fear emanating from the woman’s spirit. I sensed her in the corner of the room, and sure enough, my mind’s eye flashed an image of a young woman in her early twenties, crouched and cowering by the window. I moved over to that area and felt the temperature dip even lower. I knelt down and closed my eyes to concentrate. I said aloud, “I’m here to help you. He can’t hurt you anymore, honey. And I’ll make sure he doesn’t get away with what he’s done. Please talk to me. Tell me your name.”

With relief I felt the name Carolyn float into my mind. I smiled sadly. The poor thing—not only had she been raped and killed by the beast behind me, but now she was stuck in a confusing state of limbo. Where are my parents? she asked me desperately.

“They’re safe, but they’re very worried about you, Carolyn. They’ve asked me to help you. Will you allow me to?”

I opened my eyes and stared at the blank space in front of me. I couldn’t see Carolyn, but I could definitely feel and hear her. She didn’t answer me right away, so I continued...

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